The Starry Night: Vincent Van Gogh


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Vincent Willem Van Gogh was a dutch Post-Impressionist painter. Born on 30 March 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands he died in Auvers-sur-Oise, France on 29 July 1890.   He is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of western art.  In just over a decade he created about 2,100 pieces of artwork, including drawings and sketches and around 860 oil paintings.  His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

As a child he was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer. often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion and spent time as a Protestant missionary in southern Belgium. He drifted into ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881 having moved back home with his parents and with his younger brother, Theo, supporting him financially. His early works were mostly still lifes and scenes with peasant labourers.  In 1886 Van Gogh moved to Paris, met members of the avant-garde, including Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionists. His paintings grew brighter as his style developed and during a stay in Arles in southern France in 1888 his work broadened to include olive trees, wheatfields and sunflowers.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions, neglected his health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor, when in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear. His depression continued and on 27 July 1890 Van Gogh  shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died two days later from his injuries.

Van Gogh sold only one painting ‘Red Vineyard at Arles’ during his lifetime and was considered a failure and a madman. His reputation though began to grow in the early 20th century as elements of his painting style were incorporated by the ‘Fauves’ and ‘German Expressionists’. Van Gogh attained widespread critical and popular success over the following decades and is remembered now as an important but tragic painter.

“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process” Vincent Van Gogh.

‘The Starry Night’, pictured above, resides in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  ‘Red Vineyard at Arles’ can be found in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow.



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